In 2000, Montel Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Finding medical cannabis to be effective at treating his symptoms, he began advocating for medical cannabis law reform.
He subsequently founded a company called LenitivLabs by Lenitiv. LenitivLabs is a self-characterized “line of innovative, high quality medical cannabis products for patients.”
In October 2017, Mr. Williams initiated legal action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida against numerous entities purportedly involved in an online marketing scheme related to CBD oil. Specifically, a number of companies that serve as “sellers, suppliers, importers, and/or marketers of cannabis products” that Mr. Williams claims are unlawfully utilizing his name and likeness, as well as allegedly deceiving consumers.
According to Mr. Williams, the advertisements, images and fabricated quotes post to content designed to appear to be independent media outlets. He contends that they also utilize bogus testimonials purporting to be from Bill Gates, Dr. Dre, Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Freeman, Lady Gaga and others.
Mr. Williams also alleges that the many of defendants’ offers are in fact credit card scams or other fraudulent schemes by which defendants: (i) charge customers despite advertising that the infringing products are available for a “free trial” and often refuse to adequately disclose any mechanism for customers to cancel the ongoing charges; (ii) fail to fulfill orders despite charging consumers; or (iii) charge consumers for monthly subscriptions of infringing products without the consumers having signed up for any such subscription.
The complaint charges the defendants with selling products that may not actually contain cannabidoil. The suit alleges that products were marketed as, without limitation, Revive CBD Oil, Pure Isolate CBD, Pure Natural CBD Oil, TrueMed Hemp oil, Hemptif CBD, Assured CBD Oil and Sky CBD.
Mr. Williams alleges that defendants’ conduct raises serious public health and safety concerns because many, if not all, of the defendants are marketing the infringing products as a means to cure, mitigate, treat or prevent diseases, illnesses, or serious conditions. Such marketing messages are, as set forth in the complaint, untrue health claims, which defendants falsely attribute to Mr. Williams. According to Mr. Williams, many of the consumers are purchasing the products based on the alleged untrue health claims in order to treat symptoms associated with serious medical conditions such as leukemia, Alzheimer’s and fibromyalgia.
Additionally, Mr. Williams maintains that customer complaints were pouring in to Lenitiv, “reflecting … actual confusion and damage to plaintiffs’ reputation due to defendants’ conduct.”
Mr. Williams’ claims include false advertising, false endorsement and sponsorship, false designation of origin and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, as well as violations of the right of publicity and right of privacy under Florida law and common law. He seeks to bar the defendants from using his name and likeness.
Celebrities are becoming more and more aggressive when it comes to pursuing action against marketers that exploit their names and likenesses to falsely endorse products.
The alleged conduct involves all the “favorites” of the Federal Trade Commission and state Attorneys General, particularly the Florida Attorney General.
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